Welcome to the Jungle: Breaking Down Mizzou's 2010 Football Schedule
The Missouri Tigers flirted with major changes to their organization this year, fielding both teases and speculations from the Big 10 Conference.
But after the dust cleared, Mizzou settled for a "same stuff, different day" situation as returning members to the Big 12.
Now, the Tigers have a chance to prove themselves as the major threat they were in 2007, when they went 12-2, losing only to the Sam Bradford-led Oklahoma Sooners.
The Tigers have a few advantages in 2010 that they didn't have last year—namely, an experienced starting quarterback, and a more reasonable schedule, one that doesn't include Texas or Oklahoma State.
Whether or not the Tigers will win the Big 12 North again is up to the college football gods, but Mizzou could feasibly win at least 10 games.
The following is a speculative look at each game the Missouri Tigers will play this year.
Illinois—September 4, 2010
The Tigers beat the University of Illinois Fighting Illini the last five times the two schools met.
Last year, the Tigers thrashed Illinois 37-9.
This year, the Tigers are not showing any signs of yielding a Braggin' Rights victory to their inter-conference rivals.
Tiger quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be back with a year of starting play under his belt, but Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase will be playing his first game as Illinois' starting quarterback.
Although the game is played in neutral territory at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the Tigers should have no problem earning their football season bragging rights yet again.
Record after game: 1-0
McNeese State—September 11, 2010
The Tigers will host Southland Conference's McNeese State Cowboys for their second non-conference match-up.
Although the Tigers had an uncharacteristically close game against the Bowling Green Falcons in their second game last year, the scoreline should be much more one-sided against the Cowboys.
An experienced Tigers' offense should have little trouble with the Cowboys' defense.
Tiger fans should also see a strong performance by defensive end Aldon Smith, who is MU's single-season record-holder for sacks.
Record after game: 2-0
San Diego State—September 18, 2010
The San Diego State Aztecs come from a fairly decent group of football teams in the Mountain West Conference, but they're no TCU Horned Frogs—the Aztecs went 4-8 last year, winning only two conference games.
Missouri should have no trouble shutting down the Aztecs' offense.
Record after game: 3-0
Miami (OH)—September 25, 2010
Last year, the Tigers struggled to earn a 27-20 win over Bowling Green, the only Mid-American Conference team they faced last year.
This year, however, the Tigers should have no trouble against one of the MAC's weaker links: the Miami (OH) Redhawks.
The Redhawks were 1-11 last year, and should serve as nothing more than a stepping stone/record-builder for the Tigers in 2010.
Record after game: 4-0
Colorado—October 9, 2010
The Tigers' first conference game should be easy—it's at home, and it's against the Colorado Buffaloes, the Pac 10-bound conference weaklings.
Last year, the Tigers beat the Buffaloes in Colorado 36-17.
This year, the Tigers are better and the Buffaloes are, well, the Buffaloes.
Fifth downs won't have any effect on the Tigers if they're four touchdowns ahead of the Buffs.
Record after game: 5-0
@ Texas A&M—October 16, 2010
The road trip to College Station, Texas should mark the first true challenge for the Tigers in 2010.
When the Tigers last played the Texas A&M Aggies, they won 40-26 at home—but both teams were different in 2007.
The Aggies' offense is anchored by skilled quarterback Jerrod Johnson, but is relatively weak overall.
Last year, the Aggies gave rivals Texas Longhorns a run for their money, scoring 39 points against them at home.
But they also lost to extremely weak teams like Colorado (35-34) and Kansas State (62-14).
The Tigers should be successful against the Aggies—they are certainly more impressive on paper, but on any given day, almost any team can win.
Record after game: 6-0
Oklahoma—October 23, 2010
The Homecoming game against Oklahoma will easily be the hardest game of the year for the Tigers.
Mizzou hasn't beaten Oklahoma in what seems like forever.
In 2007, the Sooners beat the Tigers twice, effectively keeping them from a BCS bowl game (though many argue Mizzou should have earned a bid, having beaten two of the teams that went to BCS games that year).
Had the Tigers played the Sooners last year, they may have had a chance to win, given the injuries of Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.
This year, the Sooners will be as strong as ever.
The Tigers will not likely win all of their games—the Sooners should beat them, even though "should" does not mean much in college football.
Record after game: 6-1
@ Nebraska—October 30, 2010
The last time the Tigers played Nebraska in Lincoln, they won 52-17.
But last year, at home, the Tigers lost 27-12 to the Cornhuskers on their own turf.
For three quarters in the 2009 game against the Huskers, the Tigers had built a 12-0 lead—Nebraska's offense was very unproductive.
And that's the way they performed much of last season—they relied heavily on their strong defense, led by Ndamukong Suh.
This year, the Huskers no longer have Suh, but they do have a reputation to uphold, especially now that they will be leaving the Big 12.
Put simply, every team in the Big 12 wants one last opportunity to beat the Huskers.
But the Huskers' offense will be stronger this year—they will perform especially well at home, likely giving the Tigers their second loss.
Record after game: 6-2
@ Texas Tech—November 6, 2010
Unlike the Texas A&M Aggies, the Texas Tech Red Raiders should prove to be quite challenging for the Tigers.
Although they will no longer have coach Mike Leach, the Red Raiders should be a strong team in 2010.
They fared very well against an extremely strong Big 12 South last year, and beat Nebraska 31-10.
The Tigers beat the Red Raiders 41-10 in 2007, but both teams are extremely different now.
Exposing my own bias towards Mizzou, I'm going to say the Tigers will win this one. We'll have to wait until November to see what will really happen.
Record after game: 7-2
Kansas State—November 13, 2010
The Tigers have been dominant against Kansas State during the past few years. This year, they should be just as aggressive against the Wildcats.
Last year, the Tigers beat the Wildcats 38-12 in Manhattan, Kansas. This year, the Tigers should play just as well at home.
Record after game: 8-2
@ Iowa State—November 20, 2010
The Iowa State Cyclones had a decent year in 2009—they went 7-6, and even won the Insight Bowl against Minnesota.
They did not, however, beat the Tigers.
Although they were winning for a short period of the game, the Cyclones failed to beat Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia, Mo.
This year, the Cyclones are playing at home, but they will likely not challenge the experienced Tigers' offense.
Record after game: 9-2
Kansas—November 27, 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium
Whether or not the Tigers and/or the Kansas Jayhawks are doing well during any given football season, the Border Showdown at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is always the most important game for both teams.
The last two years, the winner of the match-up emerged late in the game. In 2008, Kansas won with a late touchdown. Last year, the Tigers won with a last-minute field goal.
This year, who knows what will happen?
The Jayhawks no longer have quarterback Todd Reising, and they no longer have coach Mark Mangino.
The Tigers are stronger than they were last year, but the spirit of the rivalry makes both teams play differently.
On the side of bias, I'll say the Tigers will win. They do, after all, have the better team this year.
Record after game: 10-2